April 3, 2013 Comments are off Admin2

Chris Turner Passes Jobs Bill For Veterans, Active Duty Service Members & Reservists

Turner’s bill would waive residency requirement for U.S. military service members applying for commercial driver’s license

AUSTIN − State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101) announced today that the Texas House of Representatives has passed HB 860, a bill which would waive the residency requirement for service members applying for a commercial driver’s license. State Senator Wendy Davis has filed an identical bill, SB 229.

“This bill is an important step in bringing down the high unemployment rate that our veterans are facing right now,” said Turner. “What is an easy part of the application process for most, is extremely difficult if you are active duty or reserve, unexpectedly relocated to Texas, and need to get back to work as soon as possible. I’m proud to continue working with Senator Davis on such an important issue. This is small way we can continue to honor the service of these men and women.”

HB 860 is supported by Texas Veterans Coalition Organizations (TCVO) and the Texas Motor Transport Association (TMTA.)

“For these veterans who have been trained on and then operated sophisticated military vehicles of every description in combat theaters of operation, HB 860 recognizes these skills, and offers these newly minted veterans the opportunity  to more rapidly obtain a Commercial Driver’s License, exit the ranks of the unemployed and begin a new, well-paying career,” commented John Miterko, TCVO legislative liaison. “TCVO appreciates the efforts of Representative Turner, who has once again proven to be a true friend and staunch supporter of Texas Veterans.”

“TMTA applauds Representative Turner and the forethought of his peers on the passage of HB 860,” said TMTA President and CEO John D. Esparza  “Alleviating the unnecessary obstacles to new job opportunities for veterans is an honorable and needed action.  Employing our service men and women is a priority for Texas trucking, and with the abundance of available, high paying jobs in our industry, we look forward to growing military personnel opportunities in Texas.”

March 5, 2013 Comments are off Admin2

One-time Use

It’s no secret that our public schools face a lot of challenges right now.

The Legislature cut $5.4 billion in education funding last session, and even though a state judge has recently ruled our school finance system unconstitutional, the Republican leadership isn’t exactly rushing to put more money into education.

While the debate about school funding goes unresolved, there are some other education-related issues getting quite a bit of attention right now. For example, school security has been in the news since the tragedy at Sandy Hook — unfortunately, most of the ideas proposed in Austin so far have to do with getting more guns in schools.

There is also a renewed emphasis on providing students more options in school, so that there are sound career and technology offerings, as well. Good idea, but good programs don’t come for free — they take an investment in infrastructure and equipment that many schools simply don’t have the money for.

So that’s why  I introduced two bills last week that would allocate a small portion of the Rainy Day Fund for one-time grants for school security upgrades and career and technology education equipment, for a total of $500 million. This is just over four percent of the $12 billion that is projected to be in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the next biennium.

These bills would give schools some of the resources they so badly need to protect their students and better train and educate our future workforce.

Two years ago, Democrats called for using the Rainy Day Fund to lessen the impact of school budget cuts. Governor Perry and other Republican leaders said that was not an option — the Rainy Day Fund was only for “one-time use,” not recurring expenses. Now, this is a novel theory that is highly debatable, but assuming we accept it for argument’s sake, here are a couple of relatively small “one-time” expenditures from the Rainy Day Fund to help our schools.

Governor Perry and others have lately been promoting the “one-time use” of $2 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to pay for water infrastructure projects. That’s an important issue, and we’ll see what kind of proposal eventually comes up in the House. But if we can spend billions on new pipelines and reservoirs, surely we can spend millions on keeping our kids safe at school and broadening their educational opportunities.

As I told the Star-Telegram last week, what better one-time expense would there be than to make our schools safer?

 

State Representative Chris Turner

Chris Turner Seeks Funds to Boost School Security, Improve Technical Training

BY DAVE MONTGOMERY | Star-Telegram

AUSTIN — Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie is proposing a half-billion-dollar drawdown from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help school districts beef up security and bolster technical training.

The Tarrant County Democrat introduced HB 1770 that would authorize spending $250 million from the Rainy Day Fund to establish a grant program that school districts would use to improve security. HB1771 proposes an identical amount from the fund to help schools buy equipment for career and technology education courses.

School security has emerged as a high priority in the 2013 Legislature after the slaying of 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn., in mid-December.

While some lawmakers have advocated placing armed guards in schools, Turner said his measure would be aimed at “equipment and infrastructure,” such as installing security cameras or strengthening door locks. In school districts that have campus police departments, it could also be used for purchases such as additional vehicles or two-way radios, Turner said.

Turner said both of his measures fully comply with Gov. Rick Perry’s admonition that drawdowns from the Rainy Day Fund should be used only for one-time expenditures, rather than recurring expenses.

“What better one-time expenses would there be than to help our school districts upgrade their security and make our schools safer,” said Turner, who represents House District 101 in eastern Tarrant County.

Turner said his second bill is designed to expand technical training at a time when businesses are calling for more emphasis on educational programs to help fill what they say is a critical shortage of skilled workers.

The intent of HB 1771, Turner said, would be to nurture programs such as those at Mansfield’s Ben Barber Career Tech Academy, which offers training in diverse fields such as auto mechanics, culinary arts, drafting, electronics, health and agriculture.

“We’ll be working this hard over the next couple of months,” Turner said after introducing the measures.

RAINY DAY FUNDING

Perry has traditionally been resistant to drawing money from the Rainy Day Fund, also known as the Economic Stabilization Fund, saying that the pool of money should be used only for one-time investments and emergency expenditures, and not for helping offset budget shortages.

In what seemed like a softening of his stance, Perry this year has proposed spending a total of $4.7 billion from the fund, including $3.7 billion for transportation and water. Part of his proposed withdrawal would also help pay for $1.8 billion in tax relief.

State Comptroller Susan Combs has projected that fund will have nearly $12 billion at the end of the next two-year budget cycle as a result of the state’s rebound from the national recession. The fund is supported by oil and gas revenue.

Turner said his bill on school security is “very broadly written” and would give districts plenty of flexibility in proposing how to use the money. The Dallas Independent School District, for example, has recently proposed spending $4.6 million to install cameras, buzzers and electronic readers at elementary schools.

Under the bills, districts would apply for the grants with the Texas Education Agency. The agency would then make the awards based on a district’s need, financial condition and likely effectiveness of the proposed plan.

Jobs

welder

Chris believes we must invest in education and job training to create more economic opportunity for all Texans, not just a privileged few.

At the local level, Chris understands that the lack of public transportation in Arlington and Grand Prairie is a difficult obstacle for many families who are unable to commute to work or school. Chris believes the state’s transportation priorities should include strategies to upgrade and expand mass transit in major urban areas.

Chris has a 100 percent voting record with the Texas AFL-CIO. In order to help prevent manufacturing layoffs, Chris’s first bill signed into law in 2009 made improvements to the shared work unemployment compensation program. Chris co-authored legislation to exempt many small businesses from paying Texas franchise taxes. Chris also helped pass legislation to expand the back-to-school sales tax holiday to cover school supplies.

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